From the July 2011 issue of American Agent & Broker • Subscribe!

Coming Up: A Rain Of Frogs

Tornadoes, floods, lightning strikes, wildfires and hurricane season waiting in the wings; the rain of frogs and plague of locusts can’t be far off.

With half of 2011 already gone and virtually every region of the country stricken to some degree by natural disasters, this year is shaping up to be one of the most unique—and costly—in many years.

Disasters ranging from flooding along the Missouri River to a tornado in Joplin, Mo., to wildfires in Texas and Arizona that have damaged, destroyed or otherwise impacted scores of businesses, jobs and crops this year. Mid-America, long popular with insurers because of the lack of big coastal risk exposures, is proving conventional wisdom wrong and ringing up as much as $7 billion in losses from the May spate of tornadoes. (For a stunning visual account of the devastation in Joplin from the unique perspective of a State Farm agent, please visit our Web portal at propertycasualty360.com).

And it isn’t all about weather, either. At this writing, the story of a massive E.coli poisoning, with 22 dead and thousands sickened so far, is still unfolding across Europe.

Man-made problems can wreak havoc on businesses and individuals, too, especially in the wired age. Just look at the security breaches at Google and Sony (which could end up costing the company $170 million), and the personal woes of Rep. Anthony Weiner after his Twitter indiscretions went viral.

If nothing else, this spring’s unprecedented events should serve as a warning to everyone that both personal and business fallback plans are mandatory, and that you’d better be prepared for anything. The recently released dismal unemployment figures are in part still a result of the fallout from the March earthquake in Japan, which is still disrupting critical manufacturing supply chains. Honda, Toyota and Nissan all reported big declines in sales for May, citing parts and production shortages.

We’ve discussed the importance of disaster preparedness plans before, back when the country was worried about a swine flu epidemic. While the dire predictions of that time never came to pass, foresighted people who addressed issues like alternate locations, generators, employee phone trees and backups for their existing supply chains may have been grateful for it this year if their region was part of this spring’s swath of destruction.

If you haven’t made disaster planning a priority for both your business and your clients, what are you waiting for?

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